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Wright’s Strategist Sees Clinton Fomenting Counterrevolution

TIMES STAFF WRITER

THE WRIGHT STUFF?: To hear John Theiss tell it, a conservative revolution is in the making and President Bill Clinton is the key ingredient.

His recipe for change goes like this: Add a hefty measure of Republican discontent to a Democratic presidency, stir up the issues and what do you get?

A GOP voter revolt.

At least, this is what campaign director Theiss forecasts for his boss, state Sen. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley), in her bid for lieutenant governor. The backlash he envisions would carry Wright and all other Republican candidates into office. And it would occur regardless of Gov. Pete Wilson’s popularity.

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“In terms of coattails, it’s going to be a clean sweep,” Theiss predicts. “Having President Clinton in the White House has done more to help Republicans than anything else.”

Conservatives are mobilizing like never before, he says, particularly in their support of efforts to crack down on criminals and ward off government attempts at gun control.

“Those people have never been as active as now. Never in my past experience have I seen this,” Theiss says. “It’s almost to the point they are rabid. They are so mad, so scared, they are literally out to take back their government.”

And Wright, with her belief that individual entrepreneurship will triumph over government interference, is aiming for their support.

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To reach these voters, Wright’s campaign organization has signed on seven field staffers throughout California. And Wright, whose district lies 40% in the San Fernando Valley area and 60% in Ventura County, is spending a lot of time crisscrossing the state.

Skeptics of the revolution point out, however, that Wright’s opponent, state Controller Gray Davis, has the highest name identification--71%--of anyone in the seven statewide races besides governor and U.S. senator.

Plus, Davis’ campaign bank account in June totaled more than $2.3 million, dwarfing Wright’s treasure chest of $9,839.

Conservative voters may be angry, but Davis still leads Wright by 30 points in the latest Field Poll.

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UNDERDOG REDUX: After trouncing the Valley’s state Sen. David A. Roberti in a nasty primary bout over the Democratic nomination for state treasurer, Phil Angelides apparently faces another uphill fight.

According to the Field Poll, the Sacramento developer was the least known among major candidates running for statewide office. Of 14 politicians, Angelides scored the lowest, with only 12% of respondents saying they knew enough about him to have an impression.

His Republican opponent, Matt Fong, a member of the Board of Equalization, was known to 34% of voters.

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Some Democrats may recall Angelides as the outsider who ousted longtime pol Roberti in a low-blow swipe at the Van Nuys Democrat’s antiabortion views. The developer’s TV commercials suggested that Roberti condoned the slaying of a Florida doctor who performed abortions.

But Angelides wants to be known as an industrious newcomer who pulled off a stunning upset.

Says his campaign update: “As in the primary, Phil starts out as the underdog in his race for treasurer.”

And, as in the primary, the campaign looks to be shaping up as another down and dirty brawl.

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State Democratic Party official Bob Mulholland has already demanded in a letter that Fong make public all his office and travel expenses for the past two years.

Democrats want Fong to cough up documentation of his every move and expenditure while traveling for the state. If he refuses, Mulholland said, voters can assume “he’s guilty. We’re going to be after him like a mosquito in a swamp.”

And the charges? Democrats believe that Fong has “overspent tax dollars, he’s enjoyed the good life and the perks” while serving his elected term on the Board of Equalization, Mulholland says.

Also, “we want to find out if Matt Fong, while on the road, is renting ‘Bambi’ videos or ‘Debbie Does Dallas.’ ”

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That’s no idle threat. Angelides was chairman of the California Democratic Party when Mulholland similarly targeted U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Herschensohn--though Angelides denied approving it.

It was four days before the 1992 election when Mulholland crashed a Herschensohn campaign event, waving around a photo of a nude-dancing club that Herschensohn had visited. Many Republicans and Democrats alike viewed the eleventh-hour tactic as a watershed event in smear campaigning.

“I think he’s desperate and these are desperate tactics,” Fong says of his opponent. “I would expect more of the same kind of sleaze that you saw him use against Sen. Roberti.”

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CLOCK IS TICKING: Meanwhile, Roberti, who has been keeping a low profile in the Capitol for the first time in decades, is pondering what to do for a career come December, now that his political clock has run out.

The official word is that the lawyer-politician with the Perry Mason voice is shopping for offers from law firms. Whatever he ends up with is likely to pay a lot better than the $52,500 a year lawmakers make.

Capitol insiders note that, late last year, Roberti was very close to accepting a lucrative post in business when he entertained an offer from the Modesto-based Gallo winemakers to be their chief political coordinator. That job was said to be worth at least $300,000 a year.

Roberti staffers say their boss won’t be talking much about his future until the legislative session is over next month.

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SENOR ROBBINS: Former state Sen. Alan Robbins has put the worst of his legal troubles--his prison sentence, that is--behind him and is focused on winning a pack of lawsuits he’s filed against former business partners.

But it’s not so easy to shake a bad-guy image and move on when details of your crimes are continually rehashed in public.

Such a thing happened recently in Costa Rica, where a judge went on and on about the misdeeds of Robbins and former state Sen. Paul Carpenter in connection with their campanas politicas.

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San Jose Judge Arnoldo Alvarez de Santi was justifying his decision to allow Carpenter’s extradition back to the United States by laying out the two amigos’ extortion scheme in nine meticulously detailed pages. Carpenter, who fled to Costa Rica to escape sentencing, was Robbins’ cohort in a plot to launder campaign contributions for personal use.

Today, Robbins, who represented the Valley in the Legislature for nearly two decades, is trying to live down the legacy of his later years in power--in part by paying off the remainder of his $3.3-million debt to the federal government.

A portion of the restitution is expected from the sale of his historic Encino estate, which was once occupied by a relative of Los Angeles Mayor John Porter, who led the city from 1929 to 1933.

The home is becoming more affordable this week. After six months on the market at $1.3 million, the price is dropping to a nudge over $1 million.

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DESOLATION ROW: It is a term headline writers dream of: “ghost town.”

That’s what Gary Squier came up with to describe the blocks of vacant, earthquake-damaged buildings that have been infiltrated by vagrants, drug dealers and gangbangers. Squier--the head of housing for the city--says the name came to him as he drove with other housing officials through the eerie, dilapidated apartments. Aside from making for splashy headlines, the name stuck because the buildings do indeed bring to mind abandoned towns of the Old West.

But not everyone likes the label, including one of Squier’s bosses. City Councilman Richard Alarcon, whose northeast San Fernando Valley district includes two of the so-called ghost towns, complained to Squier early on that he thought the term was “too negative.” Now, Alarcon says he still doesn’t like the term much but concedes that the negative spin attracted some pretty valuable attention.

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President Clinton, in a telephone conference call with Mayor Richard Riordan Tuesday, announced he would seek to free another $225 million in federal earthquake relief money, primarily to pay for loans to repair “ghost town” buildings.

Times staff writer Hugo Martin contributed to this column.


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